Election campaigns are now in full swing with lots of “noise at the barricades”. As I try to sort through manifestos, promises and boasts, I am left with the question: What’s the real score”? In the midst of all this party tribalism and the litanies of historic grievances; it’s like trying to watch a sporting event that has no scoreboard.
The politically intense will reply with references to “voter swing”, at risk constituencies and a tally of political gaffes by their opponents. We mustn’t forget the economic statistics and claims of what has been done, should have been done and why it wasn’t possible. It seems like an athlete that’s involved in a competition but more preoccupied with making personal points or playing to the crowd. That is a sure formula for defeat.
From where I sit, both major parties seem to have gaining power as their objective and are using fragmented “solutions” without the context of a confirmed diagnosis. For example, education is an area that is sure to evoke deep emotional reactions. After all, we are renowned for our high literacy rate and it is a cornerstone of national development. However, the circumstances that existed when Errol Barrow made education universally available have changed drastically and we are struggling to put “lipstick on a pig” that needs major restructuring. Is it possible that the countless dispirited people unable to support themselves and increasing lawless behaviour are like the umpire’s finger going up in a cricket match?
Our vaunted social partnership seems to only emerge in episodes of crisis and make a calming return to the status quo of contentious industrial relations with government as a referee. Heck, university graduates with advanced degrees feel as aggrieved as the average wage-earner. Too often, they insist that they are entitled to pay far more than the actual value of the work they produce and employers are then saddled with labour costs that strangle their businesses.
These are just two examples that are eating at the core of Barbados’ development as a nation. The ponderous inefficiency of government services and questions around ethical and respectful behaviour warrant mention as well. Alas, I have word limit so I will take this up further in other articles.
There should be no gloating by either party because both are culpable. Barbados’ political stability rests on the fact that regardless of who is in power, things remain essentially the same. It seems that this “stability” is an over-played strengthen and we are in danger of becoming a one-trick pony.
I am very aware that these are politically sensitive areas. They are the veritable “sacred cows” of Barbados society. It is said that: “Sacred cows make the best hamburger”. No disrespect intended to Hindus.
There has been much talk during this campaign about leadership. I submit that effective leaders must answer two questions constantly: What are we working on? (Vision) and How are we doing? (Performance). We live in a democracy but democratic management is a failed concept.
Our leaders may want to consider a modified version of a “balanced scorecard” that covers and aligns the breadth of key functional areas. They can then report against measurable targets at agreed milestones. Maybe then, we will be able to follow and participate in the game.
Prepared for the February 18, 2013 “Strong Suit” column in the Barbados Business Authority.
Dennis Strong can be reached at email@example.com